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Greater Impact: What makes a high school great?

Posted by Dan Gehrke on Feb 21, 2018 2:44:00 PM

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If you’ve begun the hunt for the right high school, then you’ve asked yourself (and probably your five closest friends), “What makes a high school great?” And maybe more specifically, “What makes a high school great for my kid?”

Generally speaking high schools market themselves in the same fashion.  They will usually focused on the number of AP courses offered, student statewide test scores, and average ACT/SAT results.  They may publish a list of colleges that their students attend each year and promote their IB program if they have one.  While no one would argue that these metrics are important, discerning parents are rightfully skeptical if those are the true indicators of a great school.

A couple of months ago, administrators at LuHi sat down and had a lively round table discussion about what really makes a high school great. At the end of it all, one resounding theme repeatedly stood out: it’s all about great “coaching”.

Life Coaching

Realistically speaking, high school is really four years of life coaching. Think for a second about all of the different areas in which high school students will receive guidance and instruction (coaching) during their time in school:

  • Guidance in subject areas
  • Emotional guidance
  • College and career guidance
  • Spiritual guidance
  • Guidance about extra-curricular activities
  • Guidance about family and relationships

The list is long. How absolutely amazing it would be for you, the parent, to trust and know that the teachers and staff who are doing the coaching in each of those areas are top of the line, well-trained, passionate people who love kids and reflect the values of the school.

Simply put, we believe high schools should be measured with standards beyond the normal expectations. The best high schools have the ability to coach students to success at a higher level than any other school.

You, as parents, simply want the best life coaches you can find to help your son or daughter learn, grow, and develop. You seek out that level of coaching and often pay top dollar to provide that advantage for your children. And while everyone will try and convince you that “they have the market cornered on good guidance” - the truth is that most parents know really good coaching when they see it.

So what should you look for when it comes to finding and identifying great coaching in a high school? The following is shared from our new ebook What Makes a High School Great (download the ebook to read more).

What Makes a High School Great

Look for teachers and administrators that seem to have an innate ability to get students to give their God-given best, even if it takes multiple attempts and strategies.

When talking about Lutheran High School teachers, Dan Gehrke (Executive Director at LuHi) will often talk about the desire to have an entire staff of teachers who have this ability. One of his favorite terms is: “talent whisperers.”

The idea of a "talent whisperer" comes from the book, The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle:

[Talent whisperers] know how to identify so closely with the needs and personality of a young person that they can coach and coax them to the next level of performance; they know how to be tough and tender, cold and hot, as the need arises. They are intensely interested in the talent and in the person trying to become better in that field of human endeavor. (Coyle, Daniel, 2009)

What should a parent look for in a teacher to know if they have this ability or not? Teachers who are talent whisperers:

  • Question well
  • Draw information out of students
  • Lead quality discussions
  • Convey expertise
  • Re-explain concepts however many times it takes for a student to grasp it
  • Instinctually find the right approach to motivate

Talent whisperers work best in a highly relational environment. They teach in the context of “what is best for the individual student.” When a teacher knows a student well, it enhances the odds of pushing the right buttons to maximize performance exponentially.

LuHi_PreviewDay_3505-656749-edited.jpgA talent whisperer at work in a classroom can handle a wide array of student needs and abilities: advanced students, average students, and low-level students thrive in the same classroom at the same time. The classroom is a place where every student is appropriately integrated into learning. Each student is seen as a unique puzzle to learn how to maximize their performance. Talent whisperers are master motivators.

Unfortunately, average coaches without the ability to crack the code for what works best for a student will often take a one-size-fits-all approach to pedagogy - and sometimes the subtle message that comes from weaker teachers is “I can’t teach this kid.” Often times, very talented students are stifled when a teacher fails to inspire, motivate, and challenge them at an appropriate level.

You will never hear a talent whisperer say any version of, “I just can’t teach your kid.”

We think parents should look for a high school that considers “teacher talent” to be one of its core values. No substitute for it exists.

This just scratches the surface of what qualifies a high school to be a cut above the rest. Download our ebook - What Makes a High School Great - to dive deeper into this topic.

To find out more about talent whisperers, LuHi’s core values, and how students thrive here everyday, schedule your tour or reach out to Hannah Buchholz, Director of Admissions, at hannah.buchholz@lhsparker.org or 720-822-7981.

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